Don Whitley dies at the age of 89
The directors of Don Whitley Scientific Limited are very sad to announce that Dr Don Whitley, founder and chairman of Don Whitley Scientific Limited, died on Thursday, 28 February 2019 after a short illness.
Taking a keen interest in the company’s product development projects up until a few weeks before his death, Don would have celebrated his 90th birthday this coming June.
Within a few hours of his death, tributes began to arrive from all over the world. He was generous with his time, supported many scientists in the early years of their careers, was widely travelled and had many, many friends.
Born in London in 1929, the family moved to Leeds in 1940 because Don’s father was employed in the tea industry, which was dispersed throughout the country during the Second World War.
Don wanted to train as a doctor, but was dissuaded from doing so by his parents. Don initially joined the staff of the Hospital for Women in Leeds as a student Medical Laboratory Technician. For ten years he worked at Leeds Maternity Hospital and Killingbeck Hospital.
In 1956 Don joined Oxoid Ltd, now owned by Thermo Fisher Scientific, as a technical representative, covering North East England and, later, the Republic of Ireland. Other sales and technical roles in several companies culminated in his appointment as Technical Director of the Bydand Group
In 1973 Don and a Bydand Group colleague formed LIP (Equipment and Services) Ltd. Then, in 1976, with the proceeds of the sale of his minority shareholding in LIP, Don and his wife, Pam, started Don Whitley Scientific in the spare bedroom and basement of their home in Shipley.
For over 15 years Don drove product development projects that resulted in numerous innovations and in the steady growth and development of the business. He possessed an ideal blend of scientific and engineering knowledge, natural curiosity and wide-ranging interests. He is named on 24 national and international patents. He “retired” and became company chairman in 1992 when Paul Walton (his son) became managing director. Don retained a strong interest in product development activities and was consulted frequently, although he was no longer involved in the day-to-day management of the business. He attended key conferences and scientific meetings and events – and was held in high regard by many influential individuals in our industry. As an indication of Don’s stamina and zest for life well into his 80s, he and Pam embarked on a three month overseas tour over the winter of 2014/2015. They visited distributors and customers in Dubai, India, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore during the trip of a lifetime!
The company he founded now employs 89 staff and owns the majority shareholding in subsidiaries in Germany and Australia.
Ironically, had he become a medical doctor he may not have contributed to improvements in public health and the understanding and treatment of cancer in anything like the same way as he did, all over the world, through the company he founded.
In 2009 Don was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Bradford, acknowledging a lifetime of achievements in applied microbiology.
In accordance with Don’s wishes there will not be a funeral. He requested that his body be left to medical research at the University of Nottingham Medical School. A celebration of Don’s life will take place later in the year.
Don was married three times and had seven children. His first wife and one son have predeceased him. Two sons, two grandsons and a great-grandson work within the company he founded.